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Transforming The Trade Finance Industry through Digitisation

Uzair Bawany


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hsbcinnovationbanking logo

Transforming The Trade Finance Industry through Digitisation

Uzair Bawany



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Uzair Bawany Traydstream
Full transcript here

About Uzair Bawany

Episode 138: Amardeep Parmar from The BAE HQ  welcomes Uzair Bawany, CCO at Traydstream.

This podcase episode discusses the professional journey of Uzair Bawany, a serial entrepreneur who transitioned from banking to recruitment and then to founding a fintech company, Traydstream, specialising in trade finance. The conversation covers his initial disillusionment with banking, his success in recruitment, and his move towards digitising trade finance, highlighting the challenges and innovations along the way.

Uzair Bawany


Show Notes

00:00 - Intro 

01:52: Uzair reflects on his family business and personal dislikes.

02:32: Uzair's interest in finance and challenges in the banking sector.

04:23: Uzair shifts from banking to recruitment, seeking more control over his career.

05:52: Background on Uzair's upbringing and family influence.

06:50: Uzair discusses challenges in seeking equity in recruitment business.

07:33: Uzair's career growth in recruitment and strategies for business expansion.

10:33: Introduction of Fairway and the genesis of TradeStream.

11:35: Uzair discusses globalization and his recruitment practices.

15:22: Uzair talks about management philosophy and alternative career paths.

16:30: Uzair focuses on TradeStream, enhancing global trade finance.

20:07: Detailed explanation of TradeStream's function and Uzair's role change.

23:38: Uzair reflects on technological advancements and their timing.

25:20: Transition from people-driven to product-led businesses.

26:54: Uzair discusses the impact of his mentoring experiences.

31:42: Uzair shares the low points and challenges of his career.

35:19: Uzair provides final thoughts on career lessons and future plans.

39:43: Closing remarks on the importance of honesty and integrity.

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Uzair Bawany Full Transcript

Uzair Bawany: 0:

disillusioned with banking and I thought after five months, I've spent my whole life dreaming to do this and actually I can't stand it. It's all about business and running things responsible and building, and I think that's the common thread throughout, which, I think, gets me excited. Anyway, everything you wear today on you, from pin to plane, is probably financed by some form of financial trade transaction. Realizing that this is all very manual and also realizing that the world is moving towards incredible technology through AI, I suddenly start to realize that actually we can digitize this whole thing.

Amardeep Parmar: 0:40

Today on the podcast, we have Uzair Bawany, who's a serial entrepreneur, most recently of the fintech Traydstream, which has recently raised a Series B. They're specialists in trade finance and modernizing that industry. Uzair's got an interesting background, and his father was an entrepreneur himself with importing and exporting leather materials. From there, though, he wanted to become a banker, which he then decided he hated quite quickly. Went into the recruitment world, did exceptionally well and was soon able to take over another company, scale that up, get that exited before starting another business as well, and in this business, he was focused on trade finance and recruiting for that industry and searching for top quality people, and that made him realize there's a massive problem there that he could solve with tech, and that led him to his latest business. There's so many other points on this journey that he's going to share with you, so I hope you enjoy this episode.

Amardeep Parmar: 1:37

I'm Amar from the BAE HQ, and this podcast is powered by HSBC Innovation Banking. So great to have you on today.

Amardeep Parmar: 1:45

And incredible all the different things you've done I'd love to learn about when you're growing up, right when you're a kid what did you want to be? Do you ever think someday I could do what I'm doing today?

Uzair Bawany: 1:52

so I guess we always come from a business family. Um, literally on the dining table we talked about business and my father used to import leather skins from italy. So he'd literally bring in leather from Italy and then he'd sell it and they'd manufacture these jackets. And it was funny because at the time when I was growing up, leather jackets were very cool with everything else but I hated leather jackets and all my friends would be so envious that I was working in leather and I never wanted to wear leather jackets because of the smell and being all around. But I guess I always had my heart on being a banker. It was what I always wanted to do. I'd spent a long time.

Uzair Bawany: 2:32

I love finance and economics. I've always read a lot, so that was always my dream. I said this is what I want to do with my life. And you know, you read books about what's life as a trainee in an investment bank. You know as a result you know Liar's, Poker and all the other great books that were out there. You kind of read them and you kind of have this dream of being swept up in this amazing world of investment, banking and high finance and economics.

Uzair Bawany: 3:13

And anyway, I managed to get a job with one of the banks after university and I was on the rotation program. It was apparent to me that the manager had favorites, and I was going nowhere and I got given all the worst things to do and I don't know if it was the color of my skin or what it was, but I found it very, very difficult and quite soul destroying, to the point that I was totally disillusioned with banking and I thought after five months, I've spent my whole life dreaming to do this and actually I can't stand it, literally to the point. I just didn't want, I just couldn't, didn't enjoy going into work. So I went to work, went to a recruitment firm to say get me out of here. Basically I can't do this. And they said what do you want to do? And I said I want somewhere I can control my PNL, I can be responsible for my success, I want to be able to have a lot more autonomy to do the things I want to do. And the guy who owned the recruitment, he said have you thought about working in our business in recruitment, and I said, no, don't know what this is, and they said, well, why don't you try it? Because anyway, he offered me a job. Yeah, it's kind of long story, short, um. And to suffice to say, you know, within two years I became a director there, you know, earning more than all my friends were earning at the time in banking, and enjoying it.

Uzair Bawany: 4:23

Company grew from 10 to 80 odd people and then I approached the owner and said, look, we're all. There are four, four other directors. And I said, well, look, this is great, but can we have some equity, right? And they were all much older than me, the, the other, the other directors and I and they said, can we have some equity? And he said, oh, you know it's difficult, and we used to sit there at the audit every year signing his million pound dividends off. So I'd be like, well, hang on a second, where are we going on this front? Even though I was only 24. Anyway, he all offered us, I think, one and a half percent each in the company, and that was my cue to leave. And then I said, right, I am not gonna stay here for 100 %

Amardeep Parmar: 5:09

Love to see the dynamic of idea of you working in a entrepreneurial family and choosing to go banking instead and then go into recruitment. What was the family pressure like that?  Was it the why aren't you going to come and work in the family business, or is it quite encouraging?

Uzair Bawany: 5:12

No, I think my dad, always um, was pushing me to go down the professional route for the first few years, as most asian families do, go and learn, learn how to do things and and I suppose he was always, you know, wanted me to do that. Having done that, he was very adverse to me quitting him. He did not want me to quit and I was explaining to him that I was very unhappy. He said, no, no, he'll get better, just stick it out. But I couldn't, I just couldn't. And um, you know, obviously eventually supportive, but initially, you know you're too rash, you're too impatient, you need to give it time. I said I'm getting abused every day. I can't do this and it's not fair. And um, and I guess you know he came in the 60s.

Uzair Bawany: 5:52

My father was at university, he came and studied here. I went to, we were born in manchester, which is why I still support manchester city for my sins um, but born in manchester and and he was a chemist and that's where the chemicals and the whole dyeing process for leather came in. So he came from a very much a chemical engineering background. I was always patient and time and there's me six months in like get out, I want to get out of here, and he was very against it but anyway, eventually supportive of it.

Uzair Bawany: 6:21

So, yeah, that was how it worked. And then in recruitment, people say, oh, you're going to run. For me it was just, it was being an entrepreneur again, right, it was having control of something, whether you're moving people or what I do now in technology, and it's all about business and running things responsible and building. And I think that's the common thread throughout. Which I think gets me excited anyway is that ability to do anything without any restrictions if you have that ambition and desire.

Amardeep Parmar: 6:50

Yeah, and even when you went into increasing right, because asking for equity a couple of years in, right, is not something many people would think to do. So there's lots of people listening, maybe working at smaller companies, thinking, oh, they're just trying to get their promotion at the next race.

Uzair Bawany: 7:03

Well, I missed a step. I actually went to the other directors, who were at least all 10 years older than me, and said let's do an MBO and buy him out. Having read you know a few books on it, I'm like let's just buy the guy out. He doesn't turn up much, he's getting his checks every year. Let's just buy him out. And they all got very upset with me to say to saying how could you say this? This is being unfair to him, we're stabbing him. I said we're going to give him a big check, but they refused. And that's what brought me to say I'm going to go and speak to him myself then and say listen, if you want me to stay, you've got to give me something. Where?

Amardeep Parmar: 7:33

Where do you think that confidence came from?

Uzair Bawany: 7:38

You know, the company grew and I think I had a large part to play in that. We went to 80 in three years. So I think you kind of think, well, I can do this myself, I don't need him, I can actually do it myself. I understand this business and I think I was voted in the number one pinnacle recruiter in London, it was all that stuff and I know I can do this, I'll do it myself. And that's without trying to be arrogant. I mean I just thought, well, it's business, it's running and I can build it myself. And I think in any business and again, we can touch on this afterwards it's about how you manage people and work with people, and that's something that I think I'd like to think is something that I enjoy and hopefully I'm supportive and hopefully people who've worked me over the years will say that.

Amardeep Parmar:

What did you do after that then? Right, so once it didn't quite work out?

Uzair Bawany: 8:30

So it didn't work out left there and actually was going to start my own thing, I said I'm going to do it myself. As I was doing that, somebody introduced me to a woman who was a banker, who ran a recruitment company and was failing, and I thought, okay, so I went to see her and she needed someone with recruitment experience to help her, because they would literally sit there waiting for the phone to ring. If no one phone ring, they'll be doing crosswords or reading newspapers. So I said, okay. She said, look, come on board. I took her, I paid for 18% of the company in physical cash and I took her company and I came on board and we again it was the same story. It went from five people to 25 people in no time. We, I grew the business and we were doing amazingly.

Uzair Bawany: 9:06

And then it got to a point where we had 2000 and, uh, end of 2001,. Two, when the markets were tightening up. And she came to me and said we need to put more money into this business. And I said I'm not putting any money if you're running this business, 'cause you don't know what you're doing. And she didn't, she, she didn't understand it. She'd sit in a corner in the office, in a room and wouldn't come out and thought she knew everything. And then I said look, I'm not going to put money into this business if you're running it, you either let me give it to me, I'll buy you out. And this is 2001 too, when the markets were in terrible state or I'm leaving, I'm going to go do it myself. I'm done with all these people. So anyway, suffice to say it became very hairy when I was working.

Uzair Bawany: 9:50

She accepted my notice. During my notice period. She rang me up on the Sunday, told me not to come in on Monday and I had to not come in anymore. And I spoke to my lawyer Sunday night. They said you have to go in, you're an employee, you can't just leave. So I went in and we negotiated and ended up buying her out and I bought the entire company.

Uzair Bawany: 10:09

I remortgaged my house. I had an apartment. I remortgaged my apartment and didn't realize that there was also a £200,000 VAT which hadn't been paid, which you didn't tell me. I traded my way out of everything, out of the repayments, the whole thing, and we grew that business from what was 15 people to 140. And I sold it in 2000, just before the crash in 2007, eight, so in.

Uzair Bawany: 10:33

We set up in Singapore, we had an office in India, I bought business in Ireland, two offices in London and we grew that and and and that's where I was kind of like, that's where I kind of learned how to build. So when you say everything's great. It was amazing. I mean we were like the darlings of the recruitment industry. I was on the chair of all the recruitment federations and everybody wanted to know us and you know meeting multi-millionaires in Singapore, wanted to acquire us and everything. But then, just as I was looking to exit, the market started getting edgy and obviously Lehman's went bust. Baring's went bust. So I've ridden a real bull market of growth and really managed a real down cycle. Consolidation, selling off bits, putting it all together and then eventually selling it. And that's when the fairway came up, the brainchild of my search business, which was all in trade finance.

Amardeep Parmar: 11:23

Looking at that journey right. So obviously you were able to go very quickly at the first recruitment company. Take this other recruitment company and grow very quickly there. What was it that made you stand out so much compared to the competitors? Like what were you doing differently to everybody else?

Uzair Bawany: 11:35

I always used to say to all the people and all my teams about the fact that you just have to don't worry about competition, worry about yourself. If you do your job to the best ability and I used to spend a lot of time training and working with them and actually focusing on giving a great service to your customers, I wouldn't worry about what everybody else is doing, because they will all mess up. You just have to do your job well. Instead of being obsessed with. I want to be the only person and nobody else should deal with that customer. I'm always been very, very. It's about giving all a customer wants, and I can tell you now, as a buyer recruitment. All I want is a few good candidates and people to listen to me and understand what I'm looking for. Everything else I'm not worried about. I don't want the lunches, I don't want any of that. I just want to be able to call you, trust you and know you're going to provide some good people for me, and there aren't many recruitment people out there in the world that do that very well, sadly enough. So that's what I kind of focused on, and obviously the international focus as well.

Uzair Bawany: 12:35

We were going through this element of globalization in the world. The world was moving into this kind of one world. Unfortunately, we've gone the complete opposite in the last 10 years, but certainly in the in the in the 2000s it was all about. I wrote articles on globalization and how everyone's working together and how, you know, people were moving pre-brexit and everything was just, and so we'd work with one bank and all of a sudden it'd open up all over europe for you and then you'd work in Europe or the US or wherever it was.

Uzair Bawany: 13:00

Singapore. We set up an office because Singapore was a booming market and obviously worked with two banks, particularly that had big offices in Singapore. We leveraged off that, set up the office, built it out there. So I guess that's kind of what kind of drove the whole thing about. Were we better than everybody else? There were lots of good companies out there. Of course I wouldn't say we were better than anybody, but certainly we had a reputation of being very straight, honest and fair and if we couldn't do it, we'd say we couldn't do it rather than saying we are and we don't.

Amardeep Parmar: 13:31

We hope you're enjoying the episode so far. We just want to give a quick shout out to our headline partners, HSBC Innovation Banking. One of the biggest challenges for so many startups is finding the right bank to support them, because you might start off and try to use a traditional bank, but they don't understand what you're doing. You're just talking to an AI assistant or you're talking to somebody who doesn't really understand what it is you've been trying to do.

Amardeep Parmar: 13:53

HSBC have got the team they've built out over years to make sure they understand what you're doing. They've got the deep sector expertise and they can help connect you with the right people to make your dreams come true. So if you want to learn more, check out hsbcinnovationbanking. com. One of the things about growing that fast and taking that many more people on board, I think what a lot of people worry about is like how do you find the right people at that kind of scale when you're hiring that quickly to get the right people on board? And you said you trained them, but obviously you must have picked pretty good people and were able to train them correctly.

Uzair Bawany: 14:23

Yeah, I mean it's actually a very important point. I mean, when I look back as a CEO, my job was only one thing make sure that my diary reports were happy. That was my only obsession. I picked the right people who ran their businesses. I had a woman in London, another woman did the two offices in London, I had a guy in another woman actually, actually a lot of women another woman in Singapore and a woman in Dublin as well, and one guy in India. So the focus was always just I used to spend my life traveling around the world making sure they're happy, because if they were happy, everyone else was happy, and we and I went from kind of training the team to working with them so they could give the right messages down to the team. And it sounds obvious, but actually I was always very supportive of my management team. I see too many CEOs who are too micro and I'm not saying that you don't need to support people at that level, but actually the focus should always be on your management team and I've always really focused on that.

Uzair Bawany: 15:22

And I think I don't know whether there was an article I wrote last week in LinkedIn. I was asked about an opinion on something and I said not every salesperson makes a great manager. Unfortunately, everyone thinks that when you're a great sales guy, your next job is to manage. Well, I actually tried to create paths for people who weren't don't want to manage, and there's nothing wrong with not managing. I didn't want to make it like you failed. If you don't manage, there's nothing wrong. If you just like being with clients and you want to become a senior client person and train others and work and build the teams, you can do that without having responsibilities for P&L and managing.

Uzair Bawany: 15:53

There are other routes to building. And then we were looking at acquisitions. I made one acquisition during that. So we had one guy who had a really analytical brain and we got him into looking at acquisitions. And then he was also looking at our exits, so we were looking at companies that we wanted to sell to. So we had all that. Another one was very interested in advertising and marketing, so we got them in the market. So you know, you don't have to go down one. There are many routes to look at, and I think that's always what I've tried to encourage is to try and understand people, what they want, and there's not only one path to success.

Amardeep Parmar: 16:25

So I think I could ask you a million questions about that period of your career, but let's find out more about Fairways.

Uzair Bawany: 16:30

Yes, so Fairway was a search business. I figured market was down, I saw what I had to. I didn't make right the check that I wanted to. So I always always had in my head 20s to 30s is your, is your real learning experience. 19 to 20 to 30, you're learning, 20 to 30, you're putting it into use. 30 to 40, you're leveraging it and 40 to 50, you're making it right. That's always kind of what I had in my head. And then 50 plus is when you really kind of just you know you're you giving all your, everything back. So I've always had that in my head and I suppose for me I figured right, I didn't make the check I wanted to make because the market turned. And if the market had I know it's easy to say the market hadn't turned I would have had the check that I wanted. But I didn't get that check. So then I said, well, I've got to go back to recruiting. If I'm going to recruit which I hadn't done for years because I was running a business and I think I'm good at it I'm going to do it at the highest level in the areas I know best.

Uzair Bawany: 17:29

So I set up this search practice, Fairway, which was a search practice in trade finance. We did a lot of work in that space and I realized over the five years of doing that I was in Mayfair, I go to my gym at lunchtime, I had four researchers, I had two originators. It was a very different life but a very nice life. Learning a lot of reading articles, a lot of meeting people, lots of board network events. It was a very different approach and I realized, having spoken to a lot of people, that there's this huge gap in trade finance where everything was manual and it was the one complaint everyone said oh, it's too manual, it's too labor intensive, we need to, there should be a better way of doing things. And I kind of realized that there's.

Uzair Bawany: 18:07

And I guess as an entrepreneur, in my head I'm thinking okay, this is a great life, but and I'm earning okay, but I need. I need a bit more stimulation in my life. And that's when it came to me and I went to Milan. I have a friend who's my co-founder, who ran at the time, was running one of Citibank's part of Citibank's business, and Achille and I sort of sat down over a few expressos in Milan saying why has no one done this? And he said I don't know, it's a good point. So anyway, kind of long story short, I was looking at Traydstream while I was running Fairway and we then put a bit of money into that business. We found someone in India through somebody who was doing all our development work for us and we built a kind of prototype. Anyway, on the back of that, I suddenly realized that this is actually taking up more and more of my time and the people I had you know, a bunch of people at Fairway they all could see all my energy was going here and I realized, actually, my brother brought him into this business as well and he got an opportunity working with a hedge fund. So he left and I suddenly realized this is my sign that I should focus on this now. I put all my money in here and I'm putting more in. I'm spending all my time and I see a massive opportunity, much bigger than any recruiting business could have given me. I think. So I, Fairways sits in the back, doesn't do anything. There's nobody there, I haven't done anything in it and I focus now on Traydstream.

Uzair Bawany: 19:31

In 2017, april 17, I made the decision. My team, my admin team, all of them moved into into Traydstream and still work at Traydstream. My account has been with me for 25 years. My ad, my PA, has been with me for 28 years, um, her daughter also works for me, who also worked for me in a previous company. I saw her gave birth to a daughter and now she's 21, 24 working for as a trade stream. So you know they've all been with me for many years, um, and I suppose that's what kind of then focused we took, that we invested more money. We took a friends and family round. First, $2 million came from us and friends and family.

Amardeep Parmar: 20:07

Could you tell us exactly what Traydstream is for the audience who aren't fully sure or don't know too much about trade finance as well, like how does it help?

Uzair Bawany: 20:13

So trade finance and I guess this is why it was so interesting for me is actually financing global trade. Everything you wear today on you, from pin to plane, is probably financed by some form of financial trade transaction, and that's so. It's business, but it's the financing of the business. So import and export of anything that you import or export will be financed through some form of trade transaction and the banks finance that, and there are complexities within that.

Uzair Bawany: 20:41

But that's in essence what trade finance is, and it's a very manual effort. Banks today have thousands of documents that they'll check and review before making payments. So if I'm exporting something and I'm waiting for my payment, the importing bank will have to do all the review work to make sure everything adheres as per the agreements before they make those payments. And that manual effort can take days, of course. What does that mean? It means that my payments get delayed. I'm selling iPhones to you. I've built the iPhones, I've sent them to you. I'm out of money, I'm waiting on the money and I need my money because I need the working capital to make more iPhones. And that is all trade finance. We will work in capital finance and trade finance. It's all to do with the import and export and financing of those goods. So, realizing that this is all very manual, and also realizing that the world is moving towards incredible technology through AI at the time, which was not a very fancy word in even five years ago, but all the neural network-based machine learning that the platform has today, I suddenly start to realize that actually, we can digitize this whole thing. And the other thing about trade finance is very nuanced, with specific rule sets, so we had lots of trade experts and tech people literally coding with an algorithm all the different types of nuances that occur. So today our algorithm covers over 400,000 different permutations. So it covers, it does all those checks. And today we can and I'm not trying to sell trades to you, but today you can, you can almost say that the you can say that the platform is more consistent than the human, so it removes operational risk, makes it more efficient and all those good things.

Uzair Bawany: 22:19

And I saw that and said well, there's a huge opportunity here. No one's done that. Why has no one done it? Because the reason no one has done it is because 10 years ago it probably wasn't even possible. So, as you said, luck, timing, God, everything comes into it right, and you kind of say, well, if there's a moment, it's got to be now. Right, we've got the traction, we've got people, we've got some opportunity.

Uzair Bawany: 22:39

And then we started attracting people right and the fintech world blew up and everyone started investing in fintechs. We were lucky. We had some very high net worth individual supporters in the early rounds. Then we had an A round with a couple of institutional investors and then the B round, which we just raised in November 21, was two institutional investors, one in Dubai and one in the US. That was a $21 million raise which hopefully will keep us going for a while now. And the team now is 240, 250 people.

Uzair Bawany: 23:09

So it's been, and I should say also, as I said to you, that I've decided to leave the company now. Having been the chief commercial officer in the most recent role responsible, raised the money, built the business. We have a CEO in place and I guess it's now. I thought to myself, well, now the money's raised, what am I going to do? And I realized that you know, it's better to let that baby run. Now I'm still a board member and a large shareholder. But I'm going to now try and see what else excites me and see what else I can do.

Amardeep Parmar: 23:38

So one thing I was smiling as you're saying there as well, because I remember earlier on you mentioned about your support man city, right. And you did that before it was cool. Way before it was cool. And then now with the AI stuff as well, again, you were in early before it was cool and there's a common thread there, right.

Uzair Bawany:

Let's hope so well. The man city one, yes. That was definitely way before anybody like. Now there's lots of that.

Amardeep Parmar: 24:02

So it's really interesting to see that as well, because, like you said, why don't sometimes people like, oh, why don't you do this? Right and it's? At the time it probably wasn't easy, yeah, and now? Now, if somebody's trying to come up with the idea today, there might be a lot less barriers. But because you did it before and you had to go through a bit of harder work, at that time, that's what enabled you to get to, obviously where you got to.

Uzair Bawany: 24:21

It's a good point. I think I'm a sucker for punishment, um, but also, you know, it's funny, like now leaving. I talked to my wife and she's always, you know, should you be leaving is the right time. Now the company's going to take off. I said that's exactly when I should be leaving. Um, actually, I, I like to, I like to, I like to work in an environment where it is challenging, where hopefully you can shine through. And what you've done, and what you've done, I mean I built a business from zero to 10 million of revenue, 250 people in six years and a pretty decent valuation. I'm hoping that that would help somewhere else and that experience is invaluable. And what I've learned about SaaS businesses, about technology stacks, about technology in general, about growth, about international growth, I mean it's been phenomenal.

Amardeep Parmar: 25:15

Was that intimidating at all because obviously other businesses were more people driven right like recruitment search whereas trade stream is. So the opposite of that, right, it's very computer driven, it is.

Uzair Bawany: 25:20

It is very product led. and I think I've always wanted to run a product led business, so that we're not relying on people and we're actually relying on a product, and then it's the people to sell the product, which is also as important. So it's been. You're right, it's a different challenge, but it's been interesting to that. You don't have to think if that person leaves tomorrow they go, their accounts disappear or if they do something wrong. This is a product and you're constantly developing and improving and learning from it. So, yeah, but I suppose you know the challenge is what probably excites me and it's very interesting.

Uzair Bawany: 25:53

I mean, I'm officially leaving the end of March, but I'm having some conversation.

Uzair Bawany: 25:57

I've been on garden leave for the last last month or so and everyone you talk to and I'm looking at investing in things and various things everyone you talk to wants you to come on their board and I spent an hour with them and tell them you're doing this wrong. You need to do this. Because I've been there and done that. I know how investors think, which is why I think maybe on the VC side could be an interesting route for me, because I can really help the VCs with understanding what founders are looking for and doing that. So yeah, I'm interested and you know, the other thing, of course, is markets, where to go. I mean, I'm fairly globally open to location, so you know, when you talk about where's the new cool thing, I mean obviously the Middle East is where the hot money is today and looking at the vision of Saudi looks pretty incredible. So you know, maybe an opportunity to do that at some point is also appealing.

Amardeep Parmar: 26:47

What's also interesting about your background, too, is that, even though you've been doing all these amazing businesses and taking on these challenges, you've also been giving back throughout as well.  You mentioned before about you're smart after 50, that's when you're going to do it, but then I know from what you're talking before that's actually been going alongside, along the side as well.

Uzair Bawany: 26:54

Yes, we always had this desire to support and help people and be grateful for what you have in life and and always wanting to help and support. So, going back even 15 years now, 10 years ago, we, the princess trust, was asked to set up or the princess set up this. Um, it wasn't part of the princess trust, it was a princess charity called mosaic, and mosaic was focused on helping underprivileged kids from largely ethnic minority backgrounds. And actually it was the king now but the prince at the time who wanted to actually find a way to look at how we've got this huge diaspora of Asians in jail. Largest ethnic population are Asian and yet the most successful ones are also Asian in Britain. So why is this disconnect? So he and there were a bunch of us that we set up this I was not in the original set up but was involved at the board level afterwards set up this mosaic to really focus on going into schools. We ran a program around schools, helping under. We literally go into the schools and run the program and we did that. I chaired the London region and sat on the board National Advisory Board and we had different chapters in different parts of the country, which was very successful. Million and a half pound charity. We raised money and then it got absorbed into the trust, into the Prince's Trust, as the Prince prepared for kingsmanship. This was one of his favorite charities and he spent a lot of time and I have to, you know, if you want to talk about bigging up, I mean I have to say the the King was unbelievably passionate for those from difficult backgrounds and his care and desire to uh which he doesn't need to, but he does so much. It's actually been humbling to see how, how, how, and you know, having spent some time as well, he's he's really, really interested and wants to know all the details of the program. It's quite unbelievable actually. Anyway, so we did that Mosaic Charity and that worked really well.

Uzair Bawany: 28:55

I worked with a kid who and this is off script. We were meant to do that program and then walk away from them, but one kid particularly came to me and wanted help because he was struggling. He was an Iraqi boy with a very, very tough background whose father died in the war, mother was traumatized, his other son died in the war in front of her and they came to England and he was going to do his GCSEs. You know he was 14, 15 at the time and he said sir, can I talk to you? I said yeah, and he said look, I'm going to fail everything. My mother doesn't care about me, what should I do? He, my mother doesn't care about me, what should I do?

Uzair Bawany: 29:29

He was living on, he lives, he currently still lives on a Lisson Grove council estate and of course we all know that those people go one way or the other. Right. There's the whole drugs and robbery and all that route which he said was very open to him, and a lot of his friends went down that road. But he had this thing in him and I guess I spotted that that he, just he, never he, even though all this was going on, he wanted to do something with his life. He wanted to make something of his life and I sensed that the whole time, the fact that he came to me and wanted to learn, even though he was going to fail everything, despite all his efforts. And he did actually fail all his GCSEs apart from computer science. But, and that was the point, you could blindfold him and ask him to change a motherboard. He would know it inside out.

Uzair Bawany: 30:09

Anyway, here we are seven years later, him being homeless for a while, his mother throwing him out. He became a YouTuber and a gamer and he was in the top 3% of the country, got followers in all this. Then Raft picked him up, which is the biggest LA-based gaming program company and he's doing all the ethical hacking for gaming now to make sure that nobody comes in and ethically hack. And he's just about to move to LA. In fact I'm seeing him next week. He's just back from LA last week. I'm seeing him next week and he's moving to LA. They're getting his visa sorted out on a you know six figure salary. A guy who I was taking Sainsbury's bags to four years ago because he didn't have food and I'd feed him.

Uzair Bawany: 30:50

So I think it shows the power of mentoring as well.

Uzair Bawany: 30:53

And you know, many times I mean he always thanks me and you know, and always saying that I saved his life and all the rest of it. But I think just giving people but giving is one thing, but you have to have it in you to want it and you could see there was something in him, in his belly, that he wanted to do something with his life. And if you've got that flicker of hope people have that belief then I think mentoring can have so much value, but you can only do so much as a mentor. You need someone to come back and if people have that in them and your job is to give them that belief that they can harness and benefit from that, that flicker can go into a flame and I guess that's what you try and help people to do.

Amardeep Parmar: 31:42

Yeah, like that's incredible, because obviously I'll show you about that before we start recording as well, and I wanted to share sorry, because it's so important people to see like we don't know who's listening right, we don't know their backgrounds.We don't know their current struggles, but to have that hope right to see this is what people have been through and able to then go on and do, and I'd love to hear, just before we go into a quick five questions as well, what's been some of the low points of your journey and how did you get out of them and bring yourself back?

Uzair Bawany: 31:57

Well, there's been many low points. I mean, you know, I think one of my reports from my previous company always used to say to me you're like a Duracell bunny, you just don't stop right and I think that is one thing about my wife always says that I'm just constantly like I need to just find ways that I've. Actually she taught me to slow down and calm down a bit and try and enjoy the moments.

Uzair Bawany: 32:16

I was on safari in Kenya and just in the wild with no just you know, even on honeymoon, I had two phones with me and I jumped into the um. I jumped into the water on our honeymoon honeymoon and I had my beach on. I had my phone with me and I was like, oh my, devastated that my phone. I said don't worry, darling, I've got a spare one with me. She says there's only one man in the world who'd bring a smartphone with him on a honeymoon. So I guess that I've always had that. That's one thing I think is that.

Uzair Bawany: 32:40

But when you talk about down moments, many down moments, I mean having thought I had the check in my hand and I literally had the investor, singaporean billionaire writing me the check and I was going to move to Singapore and build the business there and take a big check and then Lehman's went bust and everything went bust and and honestly at the time it was, it was very, very hard that 9, 10, 11 months everything you know you've gone from this high of growing, building, hiring and then and actually it was a great lesson. I mean I now I look back and I think what an amazing lesson to learn how to consolidate, reduce, make people redundant, look them in the eye and thank them for all their work, but sorry for them. All are very tough but learning lessons and that that period you know where you know I had to, I had to find ways to kind of sustain myself was tough. It was very tough. And then even and we talk about tough now I mean, here I am in December last year we raised the money and I everyone was euphoric we raised $21 million, a big moment for us and I couldn't help but think what am I going to do?

Uzair Bawany: 33:47

It was a bit I wouldn't say it's a down moment, because I'm happy and I'm a big shareholder, but so this is great, but it's kind of like it's now BAU and and it's all moving along and my value add.. Yeah and it's kind of like well, okay, now you know there's committees for this, and even like, if I need something done before I used to, now I have to call the desk and log a ticket to get help for something, and it's just.

Uzair Bawany: 34:10

and I just think, oh, you know what? I think? I think I think it's probably better I move on, because I don't think there's, and I think you know, the current environment is such that, yeah, there is this, there is this with investors, there's a governance around everything, which is important. But I think everyone has to be accountable, and if you don't have, I guess I become a minister without portfolio. Um, and when you're a minister without portfolio, you kind of think, well, okay, I don't know.

Uzair Bawany: 34:37

And I actually went to the board and said, and actually it's interesting, the board actually said to me you know what, normally, when we invest in businesses, the these VCs were saying to really kick the founders out. It's really hard to get rid of them and it's so refreshing to see that you want to. Just, I said, well, if I'm not adding value and I'm a shareholder like you, and I think that's an important lesson that you should always and it's not easy but to try to be objective about everything right and think about where your value is, what benefit you can bring. And if there isn't that for your self-esteem, for the business's benefit, for shareholders benefit, it's better to try and focus on you know, doing things that you want to do right.

Amardeep Parmar: 35:19

And I guess as well, I think, because you've had the exits beforehand as well. That probably helps give you that perspective. Because I think always I don't think someone's a first-time founder yeah, it's that emotional attachment that gets in there as well. I think that's one of the difference I see between first-time founders and serial entrepreneurs. Is they're able to say, like that objective thing you just said that, like I've done well in this thing, but is this what I want to continue doing or not? Where sometimes, if people's entire life they are that business, and obviously it's going to happen to me at some point with BAE HQ, right. It's now very wrapped up in my identity.

Uzair Bawany: 35:50

And there are people in organizations who still are like that. You're absolutely right.

Amardeep Parmar: 35:54

So it's been incredible to have you on today, and I think there's so much more we can share as well, and we'll have to get you on another time too, but we have to go on quick fire questions now because we got no time. Who are three British Asian people that you think are doing incredible work and you'd love to shout them out today?

Uzair Bawany: 36:11

Well, obviously I would say my, my mentee. His name is Muhammad Al-Sharifi um, the Iraqi guy who I'm sure become a very famous guy at Raft in the future and you'll probably hear his name around the place. Um, but he's been, he's. You know, it's funny when you're, when you're a mentor, you learn about yourself as well. Um, um, it's not just about helping them, you learn about yourself a lot, and that's been a really good journey for me with him and I continue to support him and hope and watch his progress. Um, there's another guy who's been like a mentor to me and he's kind of grown up with me in my life, um, and he's a very, very close friend. His name is Gopi Chellia.

Uzair Bawany: 36:46

Uh, he currently now is uh, at Warburg Pincus but ran sort of CIO, Deutscher and a bunch of banks, then went into the private equity world, ran a, ran a business with a P firm, exited after three years, was going to retire and then got forced back in through Warburg and is doing this thing with with WP, which is interesting and done really well. And then then there's a third guy, Rajiv and Nina, they're husband and wife. Rajiv used to be the CEO of Nokia, first Indian on the board of Nokia, then went to work for a company called Inmarsat, a British satellite company, where he was the CEO there and they did their numbers and they got acquired. He was offered the job to run both. He decided not to do it.

Uzair Bawany: 37:28

He's now he's taken a plural career, as we call it, or what we call a portfolio career, and he's now enjoying different opportunities where he's helping boards, including Digicel, which obviously sponsors the West Indies cricket team, which is quite a nice job. So he spends a lot of time in Barbados on board meetings, and his wife, Nina, who's a serial entrepreneur, um in the recruitment space. She set up an AI business in recruitment out of Singapore. They were in Singapore for a while. Now they're back in London and, um, they've got Microsoft invested and they've done some work in the airspace with the government of Singapore. Incredible, um, tenacity, uh, belief and just serially entrepreneurial.

Amardeep Parmar: 38:12

So all sound like incredible people, but if people want to learn more about you and what you're up to, where should they go to?

Uzair Bawany: 38:18

Well, LinkedIn is probably the best place. I keep that. I mean, that's the one we use most, I think, for professional work. Um, I'm a big uh, put all my stuff on Linkedin. Um, I am going to start writing more in medium, as we talked about, so hopefully there'll be some more articles, but I do write on LinkedIn as well. I wrote a really interesting piece well, I think it's interesting anyway piece on early stage investors and how you get money from VCs, and that went viral. I had a few 15,000 views on it. So, yeah, please find me on that, and if any Saudi investors out there looking for people, then I'm available.

Amardeep Parmar: 38:54

So that's the next question. Actually, Is there anything that the audience listening right now might be able to help you with? Is there anything you need help with?

Uzair Bawany: 39:00

Yeah, I mean I'm just shaking the tree. I mean I finished the end of March talking to various people. I'm going to be in Saudi and Dubai in mid-April after Eid, so talking to a bunch of people. The VC world is really interesting. It's really the growth capital businesses that are talking to founder-led businesses that want to grow, acquire, build. I've got experience of acquiring JVs and selling business, as well as exiting and growing companies, but I think that whole space of B2B SaaS space is really where I want to be and obviously the working capital is interesting. So, yeah, very happy to talk to anybody that is looking, but hopefully, fingers crossed, watch this space and we'll keep everyone posted.

Amardeep Parmar: 39:41

So thanks so much for coming on today. Any final words?

Uzair Bawany: 39:43

No, I would say, you know, I think one of the things that I've always and I guess it's from my upbringing and probably family and my wife as well is always trying to be humble and honest with people, right? I mean, I've always tried to be absolutely straight in every situation and I've seen too many people not be straight, even if it's a difficult conversation. As one of my team members used to say to me, I have this uncanny ability of being hard on people without being hard, so I can tell them some really bad news about their, about their performance or whatever, but I'd say, in a way which they can't argue, because I'm not, there's nothing personal, and I always try to tell people just be straight and honest with people as transparent as you can. Admittedly, it's not always that easy, but you've got to be straight and I've always, I've always say that's the best way to build, live and believe in yourself and live in your life that way.

Amardeep Parmar: 40:35

Thank you for watching. Don't forget to subscribe. See you next time.

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